Networked Workers – The Pros and Cons of the Free Internet

Interactivity, convenience, speed, organization, and efficiency describe only some of the opportunities that networked workers bring to an organization.  The ability to virtually communicate with anyone around the world can foster strong working relationships, promote the ability for businesses to conduct negotiations and agreements, and enable organizations to promote their products easily and efficiently.

Although the Internet has advanced the capabilities of networked workers within an organization, there are also many challenges that are associated with workers that use the Internet to conduct business.  Communication is a fundamental practice with any business type. When dealing with business communications across the globe, networked workers may find there are many cultural differences that may affect their interactions with other networked workers.   Many business dealings require workers from different areas of the world to discuss complex product specifications and in many circumstances these communications must be mutually understood.  When they are not, complications in negotiations and agreements may be problematic.  For example,

Additionally, the rise in available resources on the Internet has enabled workers to expand their knowledge about a particular subject.  If fact, many organizations use the Internet to research topics to help them become more effective.  A study conducted for nonprofit organizations concludes that “utilizing available Internet tools is quickly becoming necessary for an NPO’s survival” (Miller, 2010 p.47).  However, networked workers must be cautious of the reliability of information that is available to them.  The endless use of blogging and social networking is overloaded with both reliable and unreliable sources of information and workers must choose the source of information wisely.    

More specifically, in the business of education, more public and private universities have adopted non-traditional methods to learning that include distant-learning programs.  Online learning allows students to attend classes, interact in discussions, and take online assessments from anywhere in the world.  Although this is convenient for the learner, it poses many concerns with some online educators.  Because online assessment is much easier to access and educators can not watch students work or take tests, this presents many concerns for educators. Some may claim that because of these factors, students are much more likely to cheat. 

Perhaps one of the most profound challenges that are associated to networked workers is an Internet security threat.  Many organizations attempt to use secure networks by using anit-virus, firewalls, and anti-spyware.  However, many organizations still face security risks that target and breach many high-profile data of large corporations.  According to the 2010/2011 Computer Crime and Security Survey, 41.6% of the respondents within organizations say they have experienced a security incident (CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey, 2011/12).  Although this number shows that most respondents do not experience security threats, this is still an issue within organizations. 

Overall, the Internet has many benefits when used by networked workers within organizations. The resources on the Internet have enabled users to connect globally, increase productivity, and provide an efficient way to conduct business.  Although, there are many benefits, risks do exist.  Organizations and networked workers should be educated on these risks and act appropriately. 

References:

Computer Security Institute. Computer Crime and Security Survey. (2011/2012). Retrieved: https://cours.etsmtl.ca/log619/documents/divers/CSIsurvey2010.pdf

Miller, D., (2010), Nonprofit Organizations and the Emerging Potential of Social Media and Internet Resources. Volume 6, Issue Article 4.

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9 comments
  1. kballom said:

    Overall, the Internet has many benefits when used by networked workers within organizations. The resources on the you said: “Internet have enabled users to connect globally, increase productivity, and provide an efficient way to conduct business. Although, there are many benefits, risks do exist. Organizations and networked workers should be educated on these risks and act appropriately. ”

    i agree with your statements and would add that never before has there been a tool that has the unlimited potential as the internet and web. I believe that we have only begun to tap into its potential both as individuals and as a networked employee. I cant wait to see what it looks like ten years from now.

    • Hello, you have made a great point here. The Internet has the potential to help persons and businesses to become more and more efficient and productive. I, too, can’t wait to see what happens next, who will be the next big revolutionary technology leader? In ten years from now will we look back and laugh at the technology we are using now, just like we do when we see the old “brick phone”? The possibilities are endless and that also comes with many challenges, as well. Technology is already a step ahead of us, how will we respond as it keeps moving forward? Thank you for your response post.

  2. Peter Kramer said:

    You noted the challenge of communication (clarity in particular) via the Internet. I would add that the speed of communication has unintentionally created new challenges as well. How many times have you been on the phone with someone when they say “I’m sending you the document right now” and seconds later, there it is on your desk. The time we take to reflect on negotiations, to process information, remains a construct of our own intellectual limitations. I’m careful not to be fooled that just because I can “communicate faster” it doesn’t turn into “resolve faster.” Yes, we can eliminate the time in transit, but we shouldn’t assume that the reduced time leads to better decisions if we remove the reflection time necessary to process, link, and respond to information.

    • Hello Peter, thank you for your response post. You make a valid point in saying that just because communication can be more efficient when making decisions doesn’t mean the decisions are effective. The decision making part is up to the human and I agree that a person must always “step away from the computer” before answering too quickly. Thank you for your thoughts regarding technology and communication.

  3. bwatwood said:

    Ken makes a good point…we have come a long way in the past decade and where we will be in the next is mind boggling!

    You mentioned the fear of cheating…which is a common concern among educators. Having taught online for 18 years at both the graduate and undergrad level, I have studied the research. The majority of research suggests that (1) cheating does occur online and (2) it is percentage-wise the same amount as occurs in face-to-face and proctored settings. So I work to mitigate against cheating. If I do use quizzes, then every student gets a different test (easy to set up in LMS’s). More importantly, I look for alternative ways of assessment, such as the blog posts and commenting in this class. Granted, someone COULD get someone else to do their work…but that someone else would have to do it for 8 weeks. Otherwise, I would spot personality shifts. So I try and mitigate against cheating through design of assessments.

    • Hello, yes, you make some very valid points. Cheating does occur in both online and face-to-face facilitation. Mitigating against cheating is critical in all aspects. As a former online and online instructor, it seems that providing tests for online that are more open-ended rather than closed-ended helps and, as you mention, providing a different test per term for campus helps, as well. I would think that a student would want to get the most out of their education while they are in school by submitting their own work, but I suppose it is always wise as an instructor to know that it may happen. As for providing a variety of assessments when assessing a students’ competency is important. This way you are providing the student with multiple ways of learning and proving their skill set of what was learned. The instructor can also evaluate the students progression in various ways. Thank you for your thoughtful insights on what you have researched in cheating.

  4. You mention something that I neglected because I had to become aware of it and that is the reliability issues one can run into on the internet. That is something that is a major issue and needs to be trained into students learning how to navigate and utilize the resources of the internet. It is also tied into what Matt was saying in regards to instant communication and thinking that equates to a faster resolution. It is much easier to just read something and say it is true than doing the diligence necessary to ensure the source is accurate. It truly is a challenge that is and needs to continue to be addressed.

  5. Hello, your point about the reliability of the internet in student learning is essential. At the university I work for we implemented a program (class) for first year students that provides them with a learning opportunity to acquire knowledge about the laptop and all of its components before they enter their program. I work for a school that provides programs such as game design, game development, mobile development, and etc. The students must have a basic understanding and solid knowledge of how to work the system in order to begin to take class. Digital literacy is something that we might think everyone is knowledgeable about, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  6. I like that you touched on the security issue. I overlooked that one somewhat in my post and it certainly is a concern in most organizations. Is there any way to ensure that security is tight when information and documents pass from multiple employees in this day and age of collaborative teaming?

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